Yesterday’s New York Times crossword puzzle (November 11, 2018) was an escape room in crossword form. It was also a contest. Can you escape this crossword puzzle?
Crossword Puzzle Contest
This crossword escape room puzzle was the 2018 New York Times Crossword Puzzle Contest.
To enter the contest, email your solution to email@example.com by Tuesday at 6 p.m. Eastern time. You might win more puzzles… a whole years’ worth in the form of a calendar.
Escape Room Crossword Instructions
“This crossword represents an escape room, with four articles you’ll need hidden inside. After you complete the grid, follow the directions at 41-, 70- and 99-Across to find what to do next. Working correctly will lead you to a four-word phrase with a total of 12 letters. That is your answer.”
If you’re new to crossword puzzles, this is a difficult one. It’s not particularly challenging, as far as New York Times Sunday crossword puzzles go, but the trick is, well, tricky, especially for less experienced puzzlers.
In this blog post, puzzle creator Eric Berlin, writes a bit about his love for escape rooms. He also mentions how to find the good ones… spoiler… it’s us!
Turns out, it’s pretty hard to turn the Sunday crossword into an escape room. We think he did a great job!
At the end of the blog post Eric writes, “…if it encourages you to get your friends together to try a real escape room, all the better.” We couldn’t agree more!
Thank you for the shout-out Eric.
The deadline for submissions to the contest has past. The New York Times receive almost 20,000 entries to this contest, which was a record number of entries. You can find the solution in this blog post.
Errol Elumir of The Room Escape Divas posted an escape room enthusiast survey, open during July – August 2018. Members of the community helped craft the survey. Lee-Fay Low compiled the results.
This is a really interesting data set… and I want to dig into some of my observations about it (even if this post is publishing a little later than I had intended).
First off, let’s get this out of the way…
As you read these tidbits, keep in mind that biases are inherent in the process:
(1) This was a self-selected group of respondents.
“Participants in this survey are not representative of escape room players at large. The sample is biased towards people who identify as enthusiasts, have played more rooms, and spend time on English language online enthusiast groups.”
(2) Many of the questions were multiple choice. Respondents ranked items in a list in order of importance. Lists are not exhaustive.
(3) Many of the words in the survey weren’t defined. Different players likely interpreted these concepts differently.
Bias isn’t a knock against the survey. (In fact, David helped write the survey.) Bias is, however, important to be aware of.
The survey results deliver interesting and valuable data for the community and the companies. Plus, this data will become more interesting over time as it starts to illuminate shifts in trends.
Here are a few tidbits that I found to be particularly interesting:
 562 enthusiasts answered the survey.
There are a lot of us out there who want to spend our free time thinking about escape rooms and who will take time to fill out a pretty detailed questionnaire. We’re excited to see the enthusiast community growing.
 Discovery over immersion
When asked what motivates us to play escape rooms, “discovery” edged out “immersion.”
When I travel in industry circles, I constantly hear reference to immersion. Immersion seems to be this elusive gold standard that companies aim to achieve.
While the most enthusiastic players are certainly motivated by immersive experiences, they are more excited by discovery.
Discovery is an under-explored concept. As players, we seek the unexpected. It’s energizing.
 Subscription-based puzzle games aren’t speaking to us… yet.
When asked which escape room-related activities they’ve played, subscription-based puzzle games ranked below escape room board games, in-person puzzle hunts, immersive theatre, and online puzzle hunts.
The subscription-based market is younger than these other adjacent forms of entertainment. We’ve reviewed a number of subscription puzzle games and generally enjoyed the concepts, but found that the products weren’t mature enough yet. There’s a lot of room for creators to develop this idea.
Don’t discount this style of entertainment just yet.
 Theme matters, but there isn’t consensus around best themes.
When asked what’s most important when booking an escape room, theme ranked second only to personal recommendations. Theme mattered more than reviews, booking type, location, and price.
That said, no one theme out ranked the others. Tombs and space were the most popular themes, but so many others were almost as popular.
Escape room enthusiasts are searching out themed experiences, but theme is a personal preference.
Data on popular themes will be skewed because theme pervasiveness seems to be a fairly regional phenomenon. For example, much of the United States has tons of labs, zombie apocalypse, and prison break themes. These themes are barely present in our home market of New York City.
As we travel around, we often find pockets of similarly themed games. Is that regional similarity good or bad? I’m not really sure, but it is a thing.
 Use of technology is not very important.
For a well-designed game, the most important thing is puzzle quality. Of the 15 game characteristics listed in the survey, use of technology ranked 13th.
This data supports a common misconception that escape rooms need fancy technology.
Technology is not inherently valuable. It’s one tool in a game designer’s toolbox.
Our opinion has been that technology is usually best when it’s hidden and the player doesn’t think of the interaction as a tech interaction… it’s just a fun moment.
 There is a bias towards multi-room games.
Not a single person said they prefer single-room games over multi-room games. While about 12-15% of respondents are indifferent to this differentiation, the vast majority of respondents prefer multi-room games.
I would imagine that this has a lot to with transition reveals. Room transitions usually present an opportunity for a memorable moment… and for discovery.
Additionally, single-room games are often a sign of a cheap company cramming a game into the smallest space possible.
I’d guess, however, that this bias is correlation and not causation. As escape room companies have built more sophisticated escape rooms, they’ve also shifted toward multi-room design. Many of the best escape games we’ve played have been multi-room games, but they weren’t necessarily the best because they were multi-room games.
We’re indifferent to room count because we’ve seen some amazing tiny games and some horrible massive games. What matters most is how a designer uses the space they have.
 We love logic puzzles?!
When asked how important different puzzle types are, logic puzzles out ranked all the other puzzles types listed by a pretty wide margin.
I love logic puzzles! In my experience, however, more teammates shy away from these than embrace them. (More logic puzzles for me!) While my experience is anecdotal, this makes me wonder whether all of the respondents were operating with the same definition of “logic puzzle.”
As I think about a more broad definition of “logic” puzzle, however, I see an opportunity for escape rooms to stretch how we make connections and to reimagine logic for physical environments. This is an opportunity I’m really excited about.
You will hear from: Mycotoo, Magic Leap, Dreamscape Immersive, Refinery 29, Participation Design Agency, SYPartners, Strange Bird Immersive (2017 Golden Lock-In Award recipients), The Tension Experience/ Theatre Macabre, Shunt, and Giant Spoon.
More speakers are still to be announced.
Speakers from last year will be returning in different capacities. These include Two Bit Circus, The Speakeasy SF, Scout Expedition Co., Just Fix It Productions, Overlook Film Festival, Meridian Adventure Co., Capital W, Whisperlodge, and Oculus.
Room Escape Artist will be attending as media. We look forward to seeing you there!
We’re hosting a get-together in Boston in December!
This is a casual gathering for folks to meet each other and chat about escape rooms and other immersive entertainment.
Sunday, December 16
10:30am – 1:00pm (yes this is in the morning)
Talk at 11:00am
Room Escapers (3 School St, Boston, MA 02108 inside The Old Corner Bookstore)
Please bring a food or beverage to share (no alcohol)
Note that there is no elevator at this location.
We’ll be visiting Boston to attend Club Drosselmeyer that evening. We know lots of other folks will be in town for this event. Before we all get dressed in our 1941 finery… let’s meet up in the present day.
Who should attend?
Escape room players, bloggers, podcasters, designers, owners, operators… and anyone who is even just a little bit escape-room curious.
We also welcome other immersive entertainment goers and creators. You don’t need to be escape-room focused to join this conversation.
If you’re in and around Boston, come on out; we’d love to meet you!
We’ll be giving a short talk during the get-together.
We’re going to:
tell stories about some of our favorite escape rooms from our travels
discuss trends in escape rooms
share perspective on where we think the medium is going
Ravenchase Adventures is moving their popular Supervillains game from their location in Herndon, VA to their newer location in Arlington, VA.
Exit Plan in Leesburg, VA is opening Escape Santa’s Workshop for this holiday season.
New Orleans, LA
Escape My Room presents Escape Extinction Sharks at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in New Orleans. This is a 60-minute, family-friendly escape room, where your mission is to save sharks from going extinct. It opens on November 13.
Tickets for this December’s Club Drosselmeyerare now on sale. This immersive event combines swing dancing, a fantastic band, magic, acrobatics, puzzles, intrigue, a beautiful setting, and lots of interaction. Read our reviews of the previous years’ shows. We will be attending the December 16 show. We hope to see you there!
Bane Escape and Haunted House is moving to Manhattan. They will be taking over the space of the former Sound Factory and Pacha nightclub on West 46th Street across from the Intrepid. They are scheduled to move in December.
On November 5, we are co-hosting an Everything Immersive Meetup with our friends at No Proscenium. This event is for those interested in, passionate about, or working within escape rooms and other immersive arts & entertainment in New York City.
Pocono Mountains, PA
Trap Door is re-opening Cure Z at their new location in Bartonsville, PA. Producer Tone Purzycki says that this Cure Z massively expands on the original with not just double the space, but double the story and puzzle content.
Nashville, TN (metro area)
The Escape Game has opened a third location in Nashville in Opry Mills. This location now hosts Gold Rush and Special Ops. Their Downtown and Berry Hill locations are still operating these games, and others.
Locked Murfreesboro (in Murfreesboro, TN, outside of Nashville) will run Escape Murfreesboro: Prohibition! Find the Speakeasy! on November 18, 2018. This is their second city-wide puzzle event. According player Rex Miller, “the first event was really fun with a lot of interesting puzzles and surprises spread all across the town.” Sign up at Locked Murfreesboro.
Las Vegas, NV
The terrifying horror escape room Zoe is now open at Bally’s in Las Vegas, presented by Escaped Vegas. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster or at any Caesars property box office. Zoe was originally produced in Fullerton, CA by Escapade Games.
Ninja Escape is hosting an escape room tournament. It runs through December 17th. Players can pay to enter a team and potentially win $1,000.
Belgium: The first Belgian Escape Room Championship will take place in February, 2019. Qualifications start this fall. This event aims to promote escape rooms in Belgium. Teams must be 4 players, at least 2 of whom are Belgian.
Berlin, Germany: The Room will open their new game Brandon Darkmoor on November 1st.
EXIT VR® announces HUXLEY 2 – The Adventure Begins. It will be released before Christmas in Berlin and available for groups of 2 to 4 players. Starting in 2019, HUXLEY 2 will be available at 14 locations across 3 continents.
We will be congregating on the right side of the lobby as you enter from the hotel’s main entrance.
(Please order your food and drinks at the bar otherwise the hotel cannot split checks.)
This event is for those interested in, passionate about, or working within immersive arts & entertainment in New York City. We’re calling all creators, storytellers, directors, engineers, artists, designers, writers, performers, event planners, producers, and more.
Escape Rooms are one branch of the larger immersive entertainment umbrella. If you enjoy escape rooms you’ll likely find excitement, inspiration, and friends at this meetup.
If you want to meet other passionate souls and exchange ideas about the future of entertainment and storytelling, join us.
Come on brah… do you even puzzle? Lock Jams contains some of the all-time greatest escape anthems. When these tunes play: puzzles solve themselves, hidden objects appear, and blacklights never, ever flicker.
Earlier this year we spent some time hanging out in the magnificent lobby of Escape Room Netherlands listening to Queen’s I Want To Break Free. Ever since then, I’ve wanted to put together an escape room-inspired playlist.
On October 3, 2018, in Moscow, Rich Bragg, Dan Egnor, Ana Ulin, and Amanda Harris set the Guinness World Record for most escape rooms attended in one day. In the days following the record, we asked them to reflect on those insane 24 hours. Here are their thoughts.
Room Escape Artist: Did you set the Guinness World Record for most escape rooms played in one day?
[AH] We did!
What was your final count of escape rooms?
[AH] 22. We fit in all 22!
What was your win/ loss rate?
[AH] We only lost 1 game! It was just too dense and procedural for us to tackle with just 4 tired people.
We thought we’d lost 3 games. One was a story choice that was one of those final trick question things. In the other, we thought we had lost as we were re-doing the last step of the final puzzle, but it turned out we had triggered the door and it hadn’t swung open. The game masters had been waiting in the hallway wondering why we weren’t coming out!
Which 22 games did you play?
[RB] We played 22 games at Claustrophobia in Moscow. Here is a peek at our log book:
10/2/2018 8:17:35 AM
Rise of the Machines
10/2/2018 9:17:28 AM
10/2/2018 10:04:14 AM
10/2/2018 10:49:43 AM
travel to next location by taxi
10/2/2018 11:09:20 AM
10/2/2018 11:21:14 AM
Baker Street, 221B
10/2/2018 11:56:30 AM
10/2/2018 12:40:02 PM
10/2/2018 1:23:48 PM
travel to next location by foot
10/2/2018 1:51:05 PM
10/2/2018 2:42:29 PM
10/2/2018 3:22:17 PM
travel to next location by foot
10/2/2018 3:37:06 PM
memory card swap
Memory Card Swap
10/2/2018 3:51:18 PM
10/2/2018 4:36:50 PM
A Deal with the Devil
Room #10 (Loss)
10/2/2018 5:38:06 PM
10/2/2018 5:48:50 PM
10/2/2018 7:02:18 PM
travel to next location by metro
10/2/2018 7:38:16 PM
10/2/2018 8:17:00 PM
10/2/2018 9:02:55 PM
10/2/2018 9:47:44 PM
Curse of Ramses
10/2/2018 11:00:17 PM
travel to next location by foot
10/2/2018 11:21:14 PM
memory card swap
Memory Card Swap
10/2/2018 11:36:11 PM
10/3/2018 12:40:39 AM
travel to next location by metro
10/3/2018 1:07:05 AM
Mystery Man Without a Face
10/3/2018 1:55:28 AM
10/3/2018 2:41:15 AM
10/3/2018 3:27:11 AM
travel to next location by foot
10/3/2018 3:39:24 AM
Stir in Springfield
10/3/2018 4:34:44 AM
memory card swap
Memory Card Swap
10/3/2018 4:34:58 AM
Leonardo’s Last Mystery
10/3/2018 5:51:56 AM
Steampunk: The Airship
Russian, 75 Minute Clock
10/3/2018 6:58:59 AM
Alice in Nightmareland
Russian, 75 Minute Clock
10/3/2018 7:54:15 AM
end, no time to start a new game
Our best escape time was 0:28:21. Our average escape time was 0:44:52.
Here is how we spent the hours of the day:
Claustrophobia has a difficulty scale from 1-5 on their website. 1 is the easiest and 5 is the most difficult. Here is the breakdown of how many games we played in each difficulty level:
What were your individual high points?
[AH] Our team magic elevated me to places I rarely get to be. I swooped in to save a rhythm-based puzzle and a blind manipulation puzzle, which are both usually outside of my skill set!
[DE] I loved finding things that would absolutely never happen in escape rooms anywhere else I’ve been.
[RB] It was a thrill to finish a couple of the games as the clock was nearing expiration. I also got a pretty good feeling during the ceremony with the Guinness representative as he handed us the award.
What were your individual low points?
[AH] Around 2 AM we hit a pocket of themes that weren’t my style. I was also cranky because my feet were wet from puddles and sore from all the walking. I took a back seat and tried to play a support role until we hit another game that I was excited about.
[DE] Yeah, that stretch was pretty rough. Losing – or thinking we’d lost – a game killed momentum… and we didn’t even have time to get a proper walk through!
[RB] We played 6 consecutive rooms in Russian in the middle, which hit us pretty hard. As we neared the end, I was so physically exhausted that I would sit on the ground to work on a puzzle and not want to get up once I’d solved it.
What were your favorite games?
[AU] We loved Alice in Nightmareland. It had a wonderful set and really good, tight puzzles. Other standouts were Houdini’s Academy, for its mechanical puzzle elements, and Rise of the Machines, for some unique game mechanics we hadn’t seen before.
[RB] I also enjoyed Breaking Bad and Deal with the Devil, even though we lost the latter. Deadly Vacancy was especially memorable for a moment that scared me more than any of the horror games that we played later in the week did.
Were there any particularly interesting or unusual games that you found especially different, even if you didn’t necessarily love them?
[AH] Houdini’s Academy, Rise of the Machines, Breaking Bad, Deadly Vacancy, Stir in Springfield, Terra Incognita, Alien, Arctic Bunker, and Alice in Nightmareland each had unique elements that I would recommend for a certain subset of players.
[RB] That list of games demonstrates the variety that Claustrophobia has to offer. All were at top notch production value.
Who was the MVP?
[GROUP] If it weren’t for Rich’s idea to attempt this in the first place, and handling all the set up with Guinness and Claustrophobia, this wouldn’t have happened at all, so he’s for sure the MVPest. Without all that work, there’s no way we could’ve pulled this off. He was also a persistence MVP. He sat with some of the tougher puzzles for a lot longer than the rest of us would have had patience for!
Ana was the person who couldn’t have been replaced with another top escape room player. We would have been completely lost without her ability to navigate everything in Russian. Even the rooms that had been translated to English still sometimes benefited from knowledge of Russian. Ana also consistently pushed us to think out loud. Sometimes after you’ve been playing with the same team for hours and you’re all getting tired, you stop sharing your ideas and making connections between inputs and outputs. Ana kept us talking, listening, and acknowledging each other.
Dan didn’t hesitate to do some crazy <spoilers redacted> stuff because it seemed like the right thing to do (and it was!). At many points, we’d round a corner and see Dan diving into something headfirst, trotting off to investigate something, or trying a harebrained idea that we had tried to talk ourselves out of, but turned out to work. Dan also consistently provided key insights and leadership.
Amanda showed her escape room magic on so many occasions by solving things the rest of us couldn’t seem to manipulate or figure out. The moment that stands out is when Amanda solved a rhythm puzzle on the first try that the rest of us had been trying unsuccessfully to execute for a while.
Claustrophobia is an honorary MVP for putting together such an amazing team to help us all day and all night! They admitted to us that they had not had high hopes that this attempt would be successful and that they thought it would be kind of boring. Instead, they had a lot of fun watching us. They built excitement with us as we got closer and closer.
What was the unplanned or unexpected drama?
[AH] We had plenty of drama in the days leading up to the record with last-minute arrangements for our judge, last-minute t-shirt making, and all of us being on the road in separate cities. During the record, however, everything went more smoothly than we could ever have anticipated.
[RB] Our wire transfer to pay for the rooms never made it to Claustrophobia’s account, so I had to spend some time on the phone with my bank during our attempt (mostly during the travel segments) to sort that out.
We were also so far ahead of schedule for the first half of the day that we ran into a location that couldn’t let us start for about 40 minutes from when we arrived because there were other bookings already in progress. Fortunately that was also where we were planning our dinner break, so it worked out ok.
[AH] As personal drama, I had brought a fake bear rug mascot, but we kept rushing into taking pictures, so he didn’t make it into any of them. I was planning to at least include him in the photo for my 900th room, which would be our official record minimum room (room 20), but I forgot all about him. Thank goodness for Photoshop.
What was it like playing with those GoPro cameras strapped to you?
[RB] I didn’t notice it at all except on some rare occasions when I’d need to squeeze through a small space and the camera would snag. I got so used to it, I didn’t even think about it during bathroom breaks!
Is there any chance that we can edit together a blooper or highlight reel from this footage?
[AH] The judge took our SD cards, so we don’t have access to that video anymore. We had to sign some papers for Claustrophobia that said we wouldn’t use any of that video for any other purposes, anyway.
How did you feel at the end of the attempt?
[AH] Surprisingly, not all that tired… too much adrenaline! I felt really proud of us as a team, and really warm and grateful for everyone who had been helping us. Help included planning, on-site logistics, and sending Facebook and Slack encouragement!
[AU] I felt tired, happy that we did it, and happy that it was over!
Do you still like escape rooms?
[RB] Yes! We were still able to enjoy the rest of the rooms we played in Moscow that week!
Do you still like each other?
[AU] We do! We stayed encouraging and positive throughout, which is perhaps our biggest accomplishment.
[RB] This was never a worry for me; my teammates are all awesome people.
What advice do you have for anyone else thinking about setting a world record in escape rooms?
[RB] Pick the right company (or companies) to work with. Our choice to do this all with Claustrophobia, who handled so much of the logistical load both before and during the event, was probably the single biggest factor that made this work as well as it did for us. Be sure to have the ability to adjust your plans in the middle if you’re going faster or slower than you planned.
Also, don’t underestimate the physical toll this will take on your body. Eat and hydrate.
[AU] Remember to have fun! We went in with an attitude that we were going to do our best for the record, but also that it would not be the end of the world if something went wrong. A focus on fun helped us stay positive and productive.
[AH] Find a team of people that you absolutely love and could never get tired of!
We are so proud of Amanda, Ana, Dan, and Rich!
However long their record stands, we’ll always be in awe of their tenacity, planning, endurance, and the boldness it took to set a record in a foreign country while playing games in a language that only one of them spoke… and it was her second language.
At this moment, 4 friends are attempting a Guinness World Record for the most escape rooms played in one day. We caught up with Rich Bragg, Dan Egnor, Ana Ulin, and Amanda Harris earlier this week to learn about their ambitious attempt to play 20 escape rooms in 24 hours.
Room Escape Artist: What is the world record you will be attempting to set?
[RB] The official title is “most escape rooms attended in one day.”
What are the requirements for a successful attempt?
[RB] Guinness will accept a minimum of 20. They require a 50% success rate. Each escape room must have a minimum allotted time of 30 minutes.
[AH] Additionally, all team members must be actively attempting every escape room for the full duration of the time allotted for the escape room, or until the team escapes. We can’t wait for time to run out and we can’t leave rooms early… unless we’ve escaped. If we escape early, however, we can move straight on to the next escape room.
[DE] Guinness also requires body cam footage and independent witnesses. We’ll have to submit various other documentation to Guinness as well.
When and where will the world record attempt take place?
[DE] October 2-3, 2018 from 8:15 am to 8:15 am (local time) in Moscow, Russia.
Are “escape rooms” a new Guinness World Record category?
[DE] Guinness has two escape room-related world record categories: (1) most attended in 24 hours and (2) most attended in 1 year. Neither category currently has a record holder.
[RB] When I first searched Guinness for escape room-related records, only the most attended in 1 year category existed (with the minimum number set to 415!?!?!) I then submitted an application (in December 2017) to create the record for most in 1 day, which was initially denied. I appealed the denial by pointing to the 1-year record as precedent. In March 2018, they approved the new category and, upon the approval, had also created a full list of guidelines for what the record would mean and all the rules for doing so.
I later found out that the year-long record was initially requested by S2 [Sera Dodd & Sharan Gill], a couple from the UK. They played 625 escape rooms in one year, but the requests for evidence made it basically impossible to prove, correlate, and back-date, so they decided against spending months trying to do so.
Room Escape Artist: S2 confirmed this for this piece. Additionally, S2 later also asked Guinness to add the 24-hour category and now that the category is approved, they will make the attempt as well, likely in a few months… we’ll know soon if they have a number to beat.
Where did the idea for the world record attempt come from?
[AH] Rich suggested it to us!
[RB] The seed for this idea came when someone first mentioned to me that Claustrophobia offers so many rooms AND they are open 24 hours. I don’t recall if it was me or someone else who first mentioned that this might be the only place in the world where you could actually play rooms all day and night if you wanted to. Some of us had talked about the world record concept in theory before we ever actually planned a trip to Moscow. As we started to plan this trip, I decided to take the world record idea more seriously.
Who is the team? Please introduce yourselves.
[RB] I’m Rich Bragg. I live in California. I’ll have played 526 rooms when we start the world record attempt. Last year I played in the inaugural Red Bull Escape Room World Championship.
[DE] I’m Dan Egnor. I also live in California. I’ll have played 451 rooms when the world record attempt starts. Ana Ulin is my partner.
[DE, AU] We know Rich and his wife Kiki (who is on the trip to Russia as well, along with a few other friends) from the Bay Area puzzle hunt scene dating back to the mid-2000’s. We’ve been playing in puzzle hunts and escape rooms together for years now.
[AH] I’m Amanda Harris. I live in North Carolina. I’ll be starting the record day at 880 rooms. I was officially introduced to Rich, Dan, and Ana at the NYC Escape Immerse Explore tour in 2017, when you suggested that I meet them! I have spent a lot of time locked up solving puzzles with some or all of this team over the past 10 months or so, including in Atlanta, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, San Diego, New Orleans, Chicago, Milwaukee, Seattle, and Portland.
Ok, so a group of Americans are traveling to Moscow to establish a Guinness World Record for most escape rooms attended in one day. Give us an idea of your game plan for that 24-hour period.
[AU] Well, technically, I’m not American (although I’ve lived in California for almost 10 years). We’re traveling to Moscow for a vacation with friends, a vacation that includes a lot of escape rooms. The world record attempt is a thing that sort of… just got added on…
[AH] We’ll be playing escape rooms at 7 (maybe 8) Claustrophobia locations. Here is a map:
[AH] We currently have 22 rooms on the list that take us a little past the 24 hours. We have no idea if these rooms are going to take us 20 minutes to complete or the whole hour, especially once we get tired and when we need to play the rooms in Russian. We are not sure what to expect for travel time, outside of what Google maps tells us. But Claustrophobia helped us come up with the schedule (with travel recommendations) so we think at least 21 are doable.
[RB] One critical aspect of this whole attempt is Claustrophobia. Once we got the record category approved by Guinness, we emailed Claustrophobia to see if they’d be interested in working with us to make this happen. They have come through in a huge way: building a custom schedule for us that spans many of their locations, helping us recruit local community members to serve as witnesses in 4-hour shifts, arranging meals for us during the attempt, and just doing everything possible to help us make this crazy idea a reality.
[AH] We also have a fake bear rug mascot named Boris, an emoji shortcut for our team name (Bloody Boris’s Burning Bluelight Brigade) and hastily designed and printed t-shirts!
What’s your plan for meals? Bathroom breaks? Travel between games?
[AH] Breaks? What are those?
[AU] We’ll deal with meals and breaks opportunistically. We’ll have snacks and drinks on hand. Claustrophobia is going to order in some food for us. They have been super accommodating and have gone far out of their way to make this possible.
[AH] We’ve also mapped a few quick stops that we’ll walk by, if we’ve earned enough time to stop for coffee.
[DE] Bathroom breaks will be especially fun while juggling the continuously running go-pros!
[AH] For travel, Guinness doesn’t allow private cars, only licensed taxis. We might be having the gamemasters call those for us. Again, Claustrophobia has been the absolute best planning partner for this! Ideally we are mostly sticking to the metro and walking but it’s supposed to be cold and rainy, so we’ll see.
Are the games going to be in Russian or English?
[AH] Some of each! Claustrophobia has translated a large number of their rooms, but not all. Ana will be reading everything to us in the Russian-only rooms… except by reading aloud, I mean translating aloud on the fly.
[RB] When I talked with Claustrophobia about how to assemble our team, they strongly recommended that we have 1 Russian speaker. For this reason, I predict Ana will be doing a lot of heavy lifting for us!
Will your world record attempt upset normal bookings at Claustrophobia that day?
[DE] Claustrophobia was super accommodating. They are blocking out a couple of adjacent slots for each of the games to make flexibility in timing possible. They plan to reorganize things on the fly if we’re way ahead; if we’re way behind, then… we’re hosed anyway.
You only need to win 50% of the games. How does that impact your play strategy?
[AH] We want to earn some wiggle room, so I suspect we will be more focused and spend less time socializing and revisiting interesting puzzles while we play. We aren’t the types to refuse hints on principle, so I figure that will not be different than in regular play. We do need to win half of them!
[DE] I think we’ll be more or less “hint happy” depending on how far behind/ ahead of schedule we are.
[RB] In general, I think our approach won’t look terribly different than how we normally play unless we are falling behind. I’m hoping to still enjoy these rooms and not just rush through them without appreciating them. Fortunately I think we are usually able to do that while still moving quickly.
What are you most nervous about?
[AH] I’m most nervous about the sheer number of moving parts. If a witness gets mixed up or a GoPro goes on the fritz, or there’s a metro detour and we lose time, or we show up to play a room but it’s too broken to play after a rough group came through the night before… any of that could throw a big wrench in this.
[DE] Logistical snags can eat up time quickly. With everything going on and this being an unfamiliar city for us, there are all kinds of opportunities for snags.
[AU] I’m a little anxious about playing the role of translator. It’s been many years since I spoke Russian regularly and I’ll be a little rusty. I hope a poor translation doesn’t cause us to lose time! My mother (who is a Russian language teacher) would be very disappointed.
[RB] I think my biggest worry is how we’ll do in the primarily Russian language rooms. I’m also worried how the unfamiliar environment will affect our plans. When I look at our aggressive schedule, I feel confident that if these were typical rooms in a US city we were familiar navigating, we’d be just fine, but I don’t know how much extra slop time we should be budgeting for, given that we’ll be playing rooms in a language that only one of us speaks, in a city that none of us are used to navigating.
We’ve played with each of you and you are pretty level-headed players. Do you have a plan for coping with a bad game or someone having a bad time?
[RB] We’ve played enough rooms together in the past that I’m not worried about this. If someone is having a bad time or a bad game, I think the others will pick them up and keep things positive.
[DE] We don’t have any special plans except to try to make plenty of room for each other.
[AH] We all want this to work. As the day wears on, it will be tough. But then we’ll have a long nap after. Naps fix everything.
[AU] Also, we’ll bring chocolate.
What are you most excited about?
[AH] This is an epic undertaking! I’m excited to be a part of it. The planning, collaboration and support that’s come out of this so far are mind-blowing. Even if the record attempt fails spectacularly, I’m proud to have been part of it. I am also super excited about seeing what kinds of escape rooms Moscow has to offer. We have an entire week trip outside of this one day that will include many more escape rooms, yummy food, and silly undertakings.
[RB] I’m pretty excited about the prospect of being a world record holder. I know the experience is going to be exciting in and of itself. I’m also really excited to just play a bunch of rooms in Moscow where I’ve heard the escape room quality is outstanding.
[AU] It will be interesting to see just how far can we push ourselves and how our performance changes after 10 rooms (the most any of us has done in a day so far). The logistics and collaboration with Claustrophobia and Guinness is its own kind of feat as well.
[DE] This should make for some good stories no matter how it goes down.
Outside of this record attempt, how many escape rooms are you playing in Moscow on this trip?
[AH] We have another 24 scheduled in addition to the 22 that are booked for the record attempt. We’re taking it easy.
Amanda, Rich, Ana, and Dan have been some of our favorite teammates over the years. We wish them luck and look forward to interviewing them after the attempt.
However it goes down, we’re certain that Dan is right, the stories will be interesting.